Easy How to Extend Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling

January 12, 2023

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Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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I have been wanting to extend my kitchen cabinets to the ceiling for quite some time now. With a ceiling height of 8 feet in our kitchen, we don’t exactly have high ceilings. But that dead space above our wall cabinets has bugged me in the recent years.

Open shelving above kitchen cabinetry, is just not a look you see anymore in modern kitchen styles today. And I was ready to change this in my new kitchen design.

During my recent kitchen makeover, I contemplated tearing out my upper existing cabinets for about a split second and then wisely chose not to. I knew my kids would not appreciate my organization method of beautifully displaying our dinnerware for all to see. Flashes of plates, bowls and cups (and yes, I mean plastic cups-they would not think twice about putting those on the shelves) randomly scattered across the open shelves, stopped me in my tracks.

I’m thankful I didn’t just start ripping out my cabinet boxes without thinking this through for a second. But instead went with my desire for quite some time now…extending my kitchen cabinets to the ceiling. I

t’s amazing how this simple DIY project completely changed the look of the space. Our builder grade cabinets went from early 2000’s to modern day. And it wasn’t hard to do at all! The end result is exactly what I was going for!

Header image for blogpost

How to Extend Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling

First, let’s take a quick look at where we started.

All white kitchen in the middle of a remodel

Back in the day, I had decorative items on top of these cabinets. Not sure why that was ever a thing, to draw the eye up to the ceiling like that. For a while now, I’ve kept these upper shelves bare…much better. But I couldn’t wait to close in the space completely and give it a seamless look.

Ready to get rid of that awkward gap above the top of your upper cabinets? Here’s how I did it…

Materials Needed for Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling:

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Tools Needed for Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling:

(Amazon Affiliate Links Included)

Step One: Remove moulding

The first step is to remove all of the crown molding at the top of your cabinets.

To remove the moulding, cut the seam where the moulding meets the cabinet, with an exact-o knife. Gently, with a hammer, wedge a crow bar or large screwdriver in between the cabinet and the moulding. Shimmy the moulding away from the cabinets, being careful not to damage the cabinets.

Once all of the moulding is removed from the tops of the cabinets, you’re ready for the next step.

Moulding removed from top of upper cabinets

Step Two: Add 2×4 base

Line the outer edge of the tops of your cabinets with 2×4’s. Attach to the cabinet tops, using 2 1/2″ wood screws. This will provide a support to nail the plywood into.

2x4 added to top of upper cabinet for ease of kitchen cabinets to the ceiling

Step Three: Add 2×4 to ceiling

Determine where your ceiling boards are going to go…

With a level, go straight up from the outside edge of the 2×4 base and mark where the level hits the ceiling. Behind this line is where you will screw your 2×4 piece of wood into the ceiling, using 2 1/2″ wood screws.

Essentially, you want the ceiling 2×4’s to be directly above and lined up with the base 2×4’s.

2x4 added to top of upper cabinet for ease of kitchen cabinets to the ceiling

Step Four: Attach plywood for kitchen cabinets to the ceiling

Using your table saw (or circular saw), cut your plywood to fit. Attach plywood to the 2×4’s using 2 1/2″ wood screws. Plywood will sit on top of the cabinets and in front of the 2×4’s.

Plywood added to top of white cabinets with black hardware

Attach plywood all the way around to extend kitchen cabinets to the ceiling. At this stage, your kitchen space is taking on a whole new look. Are you loving that stacked cabinet look?

Note: You’ll probably notice gaps where one plywood board meets another plywood board. Don’t panic. You’ll be covering these spaces up with trim pieces. 

Plywood added to top of upper cabinets to extend kitchen cabinets to the ceiling

Plywood added to top of upper cabinets

Step Five: Wrap with trim

Once all of your plywood is attached, you’re ready to add the trim. Cut 1×2’s to fit and trim out the new upper wall cabinetry. Attach by drilling in 1″ finishing wood screws or by using a nail gun.

If you still have gaps, that’s ok. We’ll be going back in and filling all of our nail holes with wood filler and our gaps with caulk.

kitchen cabinets to the ceiling using plywood and trimmed out

When finished it will look similar to this…

A view of a kitchen during a remodel with kitchen cabinets to the ceiling

Step Six: Ready for the finish work

At this point, I removed all of my old cabinet doors to add new shaker doors. (Here’s a post all about the new doors I installed).

View of a kitchen with all of the cabinet doors taken off cabinetry

After removing the doors, I filled in all of the nail holes along the taller cabinets area. I then caulked along all of the edges, to make everything seamless.

I was sure to fill in any open gaps with caulking too. Once the nail filler was dry, I sanded and then primed the entire top cabinets area with 2 coats of Kilz 2 All Purpose Primer.

Then came the best part! Choosing the paint colors. I chose this Gallery White cabinet paint color from Behr. Great for high-traffic areas.

I love how easy it is to clean and how hard it makes the surface. Perfect for all of the abuse a kitchen goes through…

Paint can used for kitchen cabinets to the ceiling diy project

Even without the cabinet doors put back on, I am loving this new custom look…

Cabinet doors removed from white kitchen cabinets

This simple DIY of extending our kitchen cabinets to the ceiling has made our kitchen feel bigger and more modern. It makes the ceilings feel higher and the room feel more open.

This process was much easier and far less expensive than adding all new custom made tall kitchen cabinets.

Want to make a small kitchen not feel so small? Eliminating that extra space above your current cabinets is a great way to achieve that…

Kitchen cabinets to the ceiling of an all white kitchen with black appliances

People will be asking, where did you get your new custom cabinets? They’ll be amazed when you tell them, you built them yourself.

I hope you found this to be a great tutorial and are ready to tackle this easy weekend project on your own.

Be sure to check back next week to see how I transformed those ugly kitchen countertops.

Amazing what paint can do…

Girl in kitchen opening an upper white cabinet door

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Drop your questions and comments below. I promise to get back to you soon.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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